Baby born in Walmart bathroom looked dead, mother testifies

A Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Walmart washroom two years ago provided an emotional account of the event as she testified in her own defence in a Prince Albert courtroom Wednesday.
April Dawn Halkett covers her face as she arrives at court in Prince Albert where she is standing trial on charges of child abandonment. ((David Shield/CBC))
A Saskatchewan woman who gave birth in a Walmart washroom two years ago provided an emotional account of the event as she testified in her own defence in a Prince Albert courtroom Wednesday.

April Halkett, 22, is on trial for child abandonment.

Halkett sobbed as she told the court that as she looked at her baby inside the toilet bowl after she gave birth, he appeared dead.

"I remember staring at him," she said. "There was so much blood. He didn't look alive."

Her lawyer, Ajay Krishan, asked Halkett to explain what she meant. "I was so scared. I thought he was dead," Halkett said. "He was so blue and ... he wasn't moving."

She told the court she fled the store without asking for help because she was scared.

The birth took place in a Prince Albert Walmart store in May 2007. Halkett was charged in August of that year.

Earlier, court heard Crown evidence that Halkett left the baby behind in the washroom and did not tell anyone about the birth.

Court has also heard that a Walmart employee pulled the baby boy from the toilet after Halkett left and that the baby survived. A doctor who examined the child testified earlier that he believed it was about a month premature and weighed just over six pounds.

During her testimony, Halkett maintained she was unaware that she was pregnant.

She said she was similarly surprised by another pregnancy that occurred after the incident at Walmart, not realizing she was expecting until the fifth or sixth month.

The Crown prosecutor challenged parts of Halkett's testimony. Jennifer Claxton-Viczko asked the woman why, if she didn't think she was pregnant, she took three pregnancy tests.

Halkett stood by her story.

"[The birth] was a surprise, because they were saying I was negative," Halkett said.

Claxton-Viczko: "So, they [the tests] were saying you were negative, that's what the first one said, correct?"

Halkett: "That's what all of them said."

Claxton-Viczko: "But the first one said it was negative, so you took the second one, and the second one said it was negative, yet you took the third?"

Halkett: "Yes."

Claxton-Viczko: "So, is it correct to say that despite the [fact the] first test was negative, you still thought you were pregnant, because you took the second one."

Halkett: "Yes."

Claxton-Viczko: "And despite the fact that the second test was negative, you thought you were pregnant, which is why you took the third one."

Halkett: "Yes."

Mother has 'nothing to hide': defence

The Crown also asked Halkett whether she picked up the baby to see if he was okay.

Halkett said she didn't do that because he was blue and appeared dead.

On Wednesday morning, Halkett's defence lawyer had an obstetrician testify about a type of delivery called a precipitous birth.

Dr. Charles Simpson told the court that a baby could be born very quickly and that, in some cases, the child can go into shock and appear lifeless for several minutes.

Simpson also testified that it is possible for a woman to be pregnant and not know it.

Halkett does not have custody of the child born in 2007; however, she does visit him regularly. When asked about those visits Halkett said, "[I go] because I love him."

At the end of the day Wednesday, outside of court, Halkett's lawyer told reporters it was important for her to testify.

"This girl has nothing to hide," Ajay Krishan said. "She's told the truth throughout, and she was prepared to take the stand knowing how difficult it would be, knowing that she would be cross-examined."

He said Halkett plans to re-apply for custody after the trial. He described Halkett as a scared young woman who thought she had delivered a dead baby in a public toilet.

"A lot of people have thought this was a woman who left her child to die, that she didn't want this child," Krishan said. "I think you've heard that this is the farthest from the truth."

With files from The Canadian Press